Cucumbers and Okra

In the beginning of the gardening season Greenthumb NYC donated seedlings to the Beach 91st Street Community Garden vegetables and other plants. I grabbed a cucumber and okra plant. Two foods I’ve never grown before.

Okra Plant

I almost forgot I planted the okra. And then a few weeks ago it became recognizable. It produced three pods. I was pretty excited about that. After all, I didn’t do much too care for it besides watering. While this plant may look like a legume, it’s not. Okra is related to the hibiscus plant and cotton plant. It’s a fruit. It’s origins are disputed but it is thought to be from West Africa, Ethiopia or South Asia. Today okra is cultivated in tropical and temperate regions around the world.

Okra is a favorite ingredient in southern cooking, partially Creole food. I remember having some delicious dishes when I visited New Orleans a few years back.  With mine, I simply sauteed it on the stove top with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. It was a tasty snack!

Cucumber Plant

The cucumber plant was the big shocker.  All season the plant produced very large cucumbers. As a garden geek, I couldn’t’ help document the sizes.The longest I grew was 11.5 inches! I will definitely be growing these again next season.

The identification tag was missing from the seedling plant when it was delivered by Greenthumb but I’m pretty sure I have slicing cucumbers. There are three main varieties of cucumber—slicing, pickling, and burpless/seedless. This is a creeping vine plant that needs to be trellised. They have spiraling tendrils. How do these specialized stems know to grab on? So fascinating.

I like making a tart cucumber salad with tomatoes, red vinegar and a half lemon. I add in a bit of shaved onions and season with salt, pepper and a healthy amount of oregano. Let it sit for at least an hour before you dig in.


In writing this column, I learned that okra and cucumbers are considered companion plants. The flowers of the okra attract pollinators. Cucumbers require pollination to fruit. Cucumbers release nutrients into the soil that are beneficial to okra. And okra deters cucumber beetles. I was surprised that my cucumber plant did so well because in past years, we’ve had problems with squash beetles. I know for next year to  plant okra as well for what seems to be a guaranteed healthy crop.

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